Long-term strategy.. The reality of Chinese influence in the Middle East
The Asia Times has highlighted the reality of China’s influence in the Middle East, noting that China’s goals in the region are guided in part by a long-term strategy that is partly reactive and partly opportunistic.
The newspaper added that the difficulty in comparing the influence of America and China in the Middle East is that the two countries operate on completely different planes, and the Chinese use the term West Asia instead of the Middle East, to refer to a region that includes the Levant, Iraq, the Gulf, Turkey and Iran.
And despite China’s impressive naval construction programme, China cannot challenge America’s dominance of the seas in any specific time horizon.
Nor is there any indication that China has developed or will soon develop the ability to put boots on the ground in the region.
At the same time, China’s economic and technological presence has skyrocketed over the past several years, and the United States cannot compete with China in critical areas such as broadband infrastructure.
China’s military presence in the Middle East remains minimal, with 200 marines at the Djiboutian naval base on standby for anti-piracy and civilian rescue operations.
China has reportedly sponsored the creation of a joint naval force including Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates and Oman, but has not committed any ships to the project.
A February 2013 memo from the American Enterprise Institute also noted that “existing Chinese base capacity and commitment to force in the region appears insufficient to support the level of economic and diplomatic engagement that appears to be a new normal for Beijing, so Washington should prepare for further expansion.”
There have been rumors about plans for a Chinese naval base in the UAE, so far unconfirmed.
The latest Pentagon assessment of the Chinese army does not expect an expansion of China’s rapid intervention capacity, and China has only 30,000 soldiers compared to 200,000 US soldiers, and perhaps 12,000 private soldiers compared to 70,000 US soldiers.
And in August 2014, US President Barack Obama complained that China was a “free rider” in the Persian Gulf, allowing the United States to bear the cost of the blue water fleet protecting China’s oil supplies. Free rider.
If the US commitment to protecting shipping lanes erodes, China may step in, but that remains hypothetical.
Currently, China devotes the bulk of its military resources to coastal defense, including medium and long-range missiles, J-20 interceptors, satellites, electronic warfare, and submarines.